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Science program helps students from disadvantaged backgrounds

Students crossing bridgeSummer is usually a quiet time for Sacramento State instructors, but a few are spending their time helping students from disadvantaged groups learn about science.

It's part of a program called Introduction to Scientific Research, which is supported by a National Institutes of Health, National Institutes of General Medical Sciences "Bridges to the Baccalaureate" grant and an National Science Foundation "Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation" grant.

"We try to show them what scientists do and plant the seed that they can be scientists, too," says Hydrogeology Professor Tim Horner. "Many of the students plan to transfer to Sac State, some are here already, and some go on to study science at other universities. Regardless of where they go, we try to show them a career in science is an option."

Horner says most of the students are from disadvantaged backgrounds, but "have been identified somewhere along the way as bright and with potential." 

"Money is pretty tight for me, but every day I get here," says Robert Taylor, an American River College student who says he was homeless for a while a year ago and hitches a ride to school with other classmates because of transportation issues. It's great to see that adversities can be overcome and that there is a road for everybody."

Students attend the program eight hours daily for three weeks. Projects include learning about environmental conservation and studying native plants to test their anti-cancer and anti-bacterial properties. They also do field studies at the fish hatchery and the American River.

"I'm giving up three weeks working at my family's business and going to summer school for pre-calculus, but I weighed the benefits and this was a winner," says Maria Martinez, a student at Sacramento City College. "The experience has been so amazing. I never knewStudents taking measurements scientists could be so caring about me and the environment and about everything. It really opened my eyes and made me realize this is something I definitely want to do."

The program is led by Biology Professor Juanita Barrena and Pam King, coordinator of the University's Science Education Equity program. Participating faculty include Horner, Environmental Studies Professor Michelle Stevens, Chemistry Professor Mary McCarthy-Hintz and Biology Professor Suzanne Lindgren.

For more information on the program, contact Barrena at (916) 278-6258, or King at (916) 278-6519. For media assistance, contact Sacramento State's Public Affairs office at (916) 278-6156.